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COUNTY IS BARKING UP WRONG TREE

It is comforting to know that at a time local governments are slashing essential services to keep Floridians from being taxed from their homes, Hillsborough has nothing better to do than to make up new rules for dog parks. The proposal is not the silliest example of busy-work, but the timing, amidst a property tax revolt, shows how tone-deaf officials are to public discontent with spending.

The 12 rules that already ban aggressive dogs, food, unattended children and destructive behavior has nearly doubled, to 22. The new rules stipulate that dogs are the only animal allowed in the dog parks. So leave the cat and the bunny rabbit at home. Dogs must enter and leave on a leash and they cannot bark excessively, hump each other, dig, climb fences or be "annoying."

Policing this tranquility will be a volunteer corps that will use a new registry of people and dogs to weed undesirables from the park. Dog owners will supply the county with their name, address and phone number and their dog's breed and name. The information, a parks spokesman said, will help the county track down troublemakers. Users must also agree not to sue the county for any accident. If the system works perfectly, it will be harder for the average Dalmatian to use a dog park than for a career criminal to use the county library.

We're all for good behavior and healthy conduct, but the people who wrote these rules have too much time on their hands. It stems from the mentality that no problem exists that a government database cannot correct. If the county is serious about making dogs and people safer, it will beef up the good work the animal services division has done in recent years to make pet owners more responsible. There's a cause to volunteer for.

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